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Drinking HistoryFifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages$
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Andrew Smith

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231151177

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231151177.001.0001

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Nature’s Perfect Food

Nature’s Perfect Food

Chapter:
(p.111) 7 Nature’s Perfect Food
Source:
Drinking History
Author(s):

Andrew F. Smith

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231151177.003.0007

This chapter discusses the history of milk consumption and production in America. In the nineteenth century infant mortality in cities was on the rise, particularly in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. In 1814, for example, 25 percent of the babies born in Philadelphia died before they reached the age of five years. By 1839, this mortality rate had increased to almost 51 percent. Temperance advocate Robert M. Hartley, a successful New York City merchant with no medical background, came to the conclusion that the sharp increase in child mortality rates was caused by bad milk from dairies associated with urban brewing and distilling operations. Hartley believed that milk was nature’s perfect food, for adults as well as children—but not the milk that came from these urban dairies, where cows were fed poorly and stabled in filthy sheds. He circulated tracts, published exposés, spoke to large audiences, and set down his opinions in America’s first book on milk, published in 1842. The campaign that Hartley launched eventually succeeded in closing many dairies, which may or may not have affected child mortality rates. Hartley’s campaign, however, did affect milk consumption: as soon as Americans believed that milk was safe to drink, consumption skyrocketed.

Keywords:   milk production, milk consumption, infant mortality, Robert M. Hartley, food safety, mortality rates, dairies

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